Femen topless protester wins French asylum

A Femen protester cuts down a cross in Kiev
Image caption Inna Shevchenko says her attack on a cross targeted patriarchal religion

A topless activist who used a chainsaw to fell a large cross in the centre of Kiev says she has been granted political asylum in France.

Inna Shevchenko caused outrage among many in Ukraine with her act, which she said was in sympathy with the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

The member of the activist group Femen said she had made a "strategic choice" to seek asylum in France.

She said she feared persecution for her activities in Ukraine.

She has said she received death threats after cutting down the cross, which was, according to Ukrainian media, a monument to victims of Stalin's repression in the 1920s and 1930s.

Femen said the act was a strike against patriarchal religion, in support of three members of Pussy Riot who were prosecuted in Russia for performing a punk song in a Moscow cathedral.

Ms Shevchenko fled to France, where she has set up a branch of the controversial feminist movement and mounted a series of stunts, in which Femen members bare their breasts in protest.

"To develop the movement, we need a place, we need a country," she told the AFP news agency.

France's refugee agency refused to comment, saying information on asylum requests was confidential.

But AFP said it had seen documents confirming the decision.

Femen activists have made headlines by launching numerous stunts, including stripping in Notre Dame cathedral, and lunging half-naked at the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

While some feminists say they are bringing publicity to the cause, others have accused them of betraying true feminist values.

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